Mental and emotional abuse is a scary, scary thing. Some people get so sucked into the manipulation that goes along with being abused this way that they don’t even realize they are being abused — I know I didn’t. I didn’t have a clue and that’s one of the scariest parts. Everyone around me saw what he was putting me through except for me. That kid knew exactly how to push my buttons, and how to push them to gain control over me in almost every situation. Anytime I would have plans with a friend of mine, no matter if it was something as innocent as a sleepover and a movie marathon, my significant other knew just how to ruin a good time and destroy my self esteem in the process. Whenever he knew I was hanging out with a friend or even my parents, he was sure to let me know it was not okay with him. As our relationship progressed, his abnormally aggressive jealous and controlling tendencies exposed themselves anytime I spent time with anyone that wasn’t him. He’d either show up to wherever I was or blow up my phone with texts filled with insults ranging from telling me how stupid I am, to reminding me that I’m a piece of shit excuse for a girlfriend for not spending all of my time either with him or completely alone. The best part was when he let me know how badly I made him want to kill himself — I finally knew I needed to get out. But how?
Leaving a boyfriend with suicidal tendencies is as gut-wrenching as it sounds. I had been in this particular relationship for over three years, so it had been long enough that he became incredibly attached and dependent on me and my constant company. After all of this time, the relationship became completely emotionally and borderline physically abusive. It was the kind of relationship you knew you needed to get the hell out of for your own sake and sanity. There had been numerous occasions where my significant other mentioned to me his desires to end his life. He was failing a class, what’s the use of living? He was out of money, why bother? When anything didn’t go exactly his way, why was he even still breathing when his dad owned a case full of guns? It was always difficult to tell if he was ever even serious or if he was just using it as bait to get what he wanted, but with such dire consequences, I was never going to risk challenging it to find out.
Around two years into the relationship, I came to the realization that this wasn’t a guy I wanted to be with any longer. The relationship I had invested so much time in suddenly, and with no warning, into an abusive one. Although he didn’t punch me in the face or throw me down a flight of stairs, he still abused me. He controlled my every action by scaring me with his emotional outbursts or excessive insults and constant belittling. But above all of that, he controlled me and our relationship by threatening me with his own life. He controlled me by making me believe that if I left him, his “blood would be on my hands.” Whenever I tried to tell him I didn’t want to be with him anymore, I’d be called every name in the book and questioned how I could possibly be heartless enough to leave him like that. How dare I even think about leaving someone who loved me so much? Couldn’t I see that he needed me? How could I even think to leave him when I know how badly he doesn’t want to live, especially without me? After never-ending attempts to break up always resulting in threats to end his life instead, I felt doomed. It seemed that my only options came down to staying in a relationship that made me miserable, or losing him to a bullet. Both made me sick to my stomach.
I fought myself almost daily for over a year about how I should handle such a shaky situation. Some days I wondered how I could be so selfish to even think for one second about choosing my own freedom in exchange for his life. On other days I was able to get my head on straight and realize that the only person being selfish was the one using potentially false claims to gain control over me and my personal decisions. The tactics he continuously used kept me around over a year longer than I ever wanted to be. But eventually, with the help of family, friends, a therapist, and a restraining order, I managed to slowly dig my way out of the mess I found myself in and discover the truth: this man was never going to kill himself. And even if he was going to, I still didn’t owe him my life in exchange for his, no matter what he told me.
Months after the restraining order, I eventually was able to come to terms with the fact that even if he ended up killing himself over our breakup, it still wouldn’t have truly been because of me. The thing with many suicidal people is that if it’s not one thing that convinces them to pull the trigger, it tends to be something else unless they seek professional help. Staying in a relationship just to keep someone from hurting themselves may not even stop them from eventually committing suicide over something else if that’s what they truly intend to do. A mentally stable person would normally not take such drastic measures over a break up unless there was already that drive to do something that permanent.
Suicide is a very real danger in our society. It is easy and very natural to be afraid into submission when someone tells you that your actions make them feel they should take their own life. But even though it’s scary, you cannot sacrifice your own life and freedom to save them. No matter what anybody tells you, it is not your duty to follow any demand made by a threatening partner. No matter how long you’ve been involved with a person or what commitments you’ve made to them in the past, you are allowed to change your mind and you are always allowed to terminate a toxic relationship. There are other ways to help someone or support them during a rough patch than to completely cave in to their threats and stay in a relationship that you don’t want to be in. Staying in a relationship like this only makes poisonous situations even more toxic. The best thing for both parties is to separate and seek professional help.